Following the Trump–Russia investigation can feel like reading a spy novel—a peculiar one that’s by turns comic and terrifying, unbelievable and all too real. This week, we’re bringing you pieces about spies and spycraft that explore the often bizarre world in which espionage unfolds. In “Trust No One,” Malcolm Gladwell explores the epidemic of paranoia that engulfed British intelligence during the Cold War; in “The Madness of Spies,” John le Carré recalls his own encounters, as a member of Britain’s Intelligence Corps, with the fantasies and delusions that espionage can create among spies. Jane Mayer profiles Christopher Steele, the ex-spy behind the dossier that described Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, and Adam Davidson, writing about the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., and Russian nationals, explains why spies love recruiting businesspeople. (“Anytime you have money involved, it’s perfect for intelligence officers,” a former C.I.A. operative says.) In “Spy Wars,” Nicholas Lemann explores the history of Soviet spying in America and discovers how hard it is to establish the truth about espionage. Finally, in “Brainwashed,” Louis Menand reads Richard Condon’s novel “The Manchurian Candidate” and shows how it expressed Cold War anxieties about media manipulation—a theme that’s equally relevant today. We hope that you find these pieces as absorbing as we do.
“Interviews with Christopher Steele’s friends, colleagues, and business associates tell a very different story about how a British ex-spy became enmeshed in one of America’s most consequential political battles.”
“Kim Philby had been, it turned out, a Soviet spy since soon after leaving Cambridge, in the mid-nineteen-thirties, dutifully feeding his K.G.B. handlers every morsel of information gleaned from his many friendships.”
“The superbug of espionage madness is not confined to individual cases. It flourishes in its collective form.”
“Fear of Communist brainwashing seems an example of Cold War hysteria, but in the nineteen-fifties the fear was not without basis.”
“The enduring fascination with what is, rationally, a small part of the history of Soviet-American relations can’t be explained by whatever material the spies produced. The fascination is with the spies themselves.”
“The meeting at Trump Tower is an example of the crude form of capitalism that ultimately triumphed in Russia. Now business is both goal and tool, inducement for coöperation and its reward.”